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RSTB Presents: 120 Seconds

Introducing a new feature that will stand alongside the site today. In addition to regular coverage here, I’m starting up a video series that will focus on new music via two minute videos. I’ll spare you the boredom of watching me talk awkwardly into a camera trying not to look as if I’m reading in one direction and speaking in another. Instead the series will indulge a ’90s nostalgia for cut ‘n paste video sequencing doused in a particular bent of pop culture fixation and rounded up into two minute bites. Basically this exists because I watched too much TV as a child. The first episode is below and it features Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Peacers, School Damage and Bleached.

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James Jackson Toth on Japan – Tin Drum

The latest installment of Hidden Gems comes from a longtime RSTB favorite. I think it’s fair to say that without Wooden Wand, Raven wouldn’t have shaped up the way it did in those early years. When I happened on a great set by James, billed to open for Jack Rose in a cramped bar in Greenpoint back in 2005, Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg quickly became a fixture on the turntable and a desire to spread some of the WW gospel was born. Below Toth shares a record that’s made an impact in his own life and how it crept in and took hold.

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Ben Chasny on Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan and Yoshizawa Motoharu

Chalkin’ up another great installment of Hidden Gems, RSTB’s series in which one of my favorite artists picks out an album that hasn’t gotten proper due in the scheme of things and shines a bit of light on it. I’ve found that the picks can often illuminate not only a deserving overlooked album, but also give insight as to where the chooser’s own sound developed from, and this entry from Ben Chasny is a prime example. Ben’s picked a PSF classic, the very seldom sung Live In The First Year Of The Heisei (Volume’s I and II), by collaborative trio Keiji Haino, Mikami Kan and Yoshizawa Motoharu. Technically its two albums, but who’s to get picky around here. Ben gives his take on what makes this such a slept on piece of culture and how it’s played an important role in his own music.

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Ripley Johnson on Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music

Starting off the new year right with a new edition of Hidden Gems from Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips). Hidden Gems explores albums that haven’t gotten their proper due over the years, as picked by RSTB’s favorite artists. Ripley selected Aussie psych duo Fabulous Diamonds’ third album Commercial Music, which was released by Chapter Music in 2012. Ripley explains why the album is such a slept on treasure and the impact its had on his own music.

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RSTB Best Reissues of 2016

If you’re familiar with Raven Sings the Blues, then you know that reissues and digging through the past play an important role in coverage on the site. Aside from the stellar new releases out this year, several companies stepped up to deliver reissues of essential material that could very well have been lost to time. This is a weird time in the life of a reissue label, a time where major labels are cranking out as much vinyl fodder as possible, with less than a fraction of it being records that couldn’t just be picked up in a $5 bin in decent condition. These are some of the reissues that I thought were deserving of accolades this year.

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RSTB Best of 2016

This year is mercifully drawing to a close, much to the collective relief of pretty much everyone you know. In a year that tested the limits of the world’s collective conciousness, at least there was music to soften the blow. It was truly hard to whittle down the “best” of 2016, keeping in mind that best over here is entirely qualitative. I’ll accept the requisite fines and fees for not including Beyoncé and Bowie in RSTB’s top 5 for the year, but if you need a site like this to tell you that tentpoles like those are good, then we’re in more trouble than I thought. Instead, the following list sums up the best garage, psych, experimental, folk that hit the shelves this year. The records that spent the most time on the Raven turntable presented in alphabetical order below. Fuzz on and keep safe.

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Tony Molina on Judee Sill – S/T

Racking up some great installments of the Hidden Gems series as we come into the end of the year. This time Tony Molina picks out a record that he feels has been overlooked and reveals how its impacted him personally. Tony’s pick, Judee Sill’s nuanced, 1971 eponymous debut. The record has been a longtime collector’s favorite and only recently come back into the popular canon through some much needed reissues. Those who’ve heard Molina’s latest EP for Slumberland would note the shift in tone from his earlier songwriting and it seems that Sill’s masterpiece would have quite a bit of impact on his migration to a softer sound. Tony explains how the record came into his sphere of influences and just how much it’s made an impression on how he approaches songwriting.

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Al Montfort on Martin McBain’s – Winter… on the Harbour

For this installment of Hidden Gems, RSTB’s ongoing series in which artists pick an overlooked classic that’s impacted their life, I’ve asked Al Montfort to pick out a record he thought had gotten lost to time. For those unfamiliar, Montfort is integral to several Australian bands that should be populating your turntable, including Dick Diver, UV Race, Total Control, Terry and Lower Plenty. The latter two both have great albums out this year that have spent their fair share of time on the speakers here. Al picked a small press gem from Tasmanian singer-songwriter Martin McBain. Surely an unknown name to any from the States, McBain was also pretty far off the radar to most Australians as well, having only released this LP on the small imprint Candle in 1983 and two follow-up singles in ’84 and ’86 before slipping from view. I asked Al how this record made its way into his life and what lingering effects its had on his own songwriting.

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James Hoare on East Village – Drop Out

For the latest installment of Hidden Gems I asked James Hoare (of Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls, Permanent Ornaments) to pick a lost piece of his personal music landscape. As always, Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that truly got away. For this installment in the series James picked overlooked UK jangle gem Drop Out from East Village. I asked James how this lovely record came into his life and what the record means to him.

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Design Inspiration: Jason Galea

This is the second installment of RSTB’s look at the influences that drive the designers behind some of my favorite album covers. Stepping up to the spotlight, Jason Galea opens up about some favorite album covers that have influenced his style. Jason is the designer behind pretty much anything visual that’s connected to Aussie psych warriors King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, plus The Murlocs and the Tame Impala side-project Gum. Galea has also done all of the band’s insane video work and kicked in on a few great Aussie garage comps including the Nuggets comp compiled by Lenny Kaye. The first thing that drew me into King Gizz back when 12 Bar Bruise came out was the artwork, and the triple gatefold on Oddments ranks among my own favorite covers. Its truly using the LP format to its full potential. Below are Jason’s picks that span some recent garage gems and and plenty of psych oddities.

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